10 Things I Love About Target

If you’re living in Vermont then you likely heard the BIG news today – no, it’s not about Ben and Jerry’s, or pot, or skiing. Are you ready…TARGET IS COMING TO VT! YAAAAAAAAAY!

That’s right, the only state in the country without a Target store is finalllly getting one. It’s been, oh I don’t know, 500 years since we’ve been asking?  Target will be going in at the University Mall sometime in 2018. It’s not going to be a large Target – I guess they are trying a new smaller model for more rural communities like ours – but hey, a Target is a Target, right? No more having to take the expensive ferry to Plattsburgh, NY to shop in one, or drive all the way to New Hampshire. Now you can take that gas and ferry money AND BUY MORE THINGS AT TARGET!

So in honor of this exciting news, here are 10 things that I love about Target.

1. Those big, red concrete balls out front. I don’t know why, but as soon as we park, I start RUNNING to those balls like I’m metal to a magnet. Weeeeee!

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2. There is almost always a Starbucks inside. Why, yes, I would love to pump myself full of caffeine to become even more excited about this shopping experience.

3. Their Carts. I’m normally a person who HATES pushing a cart. I always end up with that one that has a wonky wheel, or makes a super embarrassing high pitched squeal.  But the carts at Target…oh MAN. They are next level. They literally glide. It’s MAGIC.

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4. The store is clean, bright and well organized. Yesss to not having to shop in a complete dump just because you’re getting good deals. Wally World, I’m looking at you.

5. They have super cute home décor stuff. Unexpected, right? I’ve purchased everything from candles, to shower curtains, to an outdoor couch from Target. And none of it looked like it came from a department store.

6. It allows me to be efficient. I can pick up a new bra, cat food, stationery and a car battery, all in one swoop! Without Target, I’d have to go to four different stores to get all of those items.

7. Their cartwheel rewards program is baller good and saves you lots of money. I follow a couple couponing sites and they are always sharing the amazing deals you can get at Target. I can’t wait to sign up for Cartwheel and try myself!

8. That bargin section at the beginning of the store with seasonal items you didn’t even know you needed. The joy a $1 pack of pencils brings to my life cannot be understated. This section starts your shopping experience off right!
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9. Their employees are so friendly and helpful. Wow, people who don’t look like they want to kill themselves AND actually know where things are in the store? Unheard of.

10. Their branding. That cute dog Spot, the iconic bullseye (so simple, yet so effective) and their entertaining commercials make me want to go to Target always.

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The Bubble Bursts. Trump Wins.

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Two weeks ago, we were in London on another one of our cheap travel adventures. We had booked the deal weeks before Brexit and were pretty happy that the timing worked out in our favor. But besides a cheap (er) pound, we weren’t sure what to expect over there. Would Brexit be all that was talked about? Would the pubs be crowded with people drinking away their sorrows? It was hard to know what would happen.

One night, I got accidentally hangry and we ran into the first restaurant we could find. It was busy and the only table available was a shared one in the back of the restaurant. I grumbled, but we accepted. Towards the end of the meal, our British table-mates chatted us and asked where we were from. We had joked before the trip that we would lie and tell people we were from Canada in order to avoid talking about the presidential election. But we found ourselves nonetheless confessing “Vermont.” Instantly the conversation turned to the topic we had hoped to avoid.

“You aren’t from TRUMPLAND, are you?” our British friends laughed.

“No, definitely not!” we replied.

“What a joke your country is right now!” and we agreed.

It went on like this for a little bit—them sharing they had seen Trump say  X offensive thing, us laughing nervously while trying to make it clear we weren’t supporters. Finally Dan was able to pivot to their current crisis.

“Yeah, so what about Brexit? What a disaster that was, huh?”

It was like the music in the room stopped. Instantly their moods changed. Their faces grew stern. “Actually, no. We think it’s great. We think it’s just what this country needs,” they told us. Open mouth, insert foot.

Trump winning yesterday is that interaction all over again, but on a massive scale. I had naively assumed the majority of Americans didn’t support him, that there was no way he could win, and that if he did, I wouldn’t personally know anyone who was happy about his victory. But it turns out, I do know Trump supporters:

-My friend from college who outed herself the day after the election. She said she was offended by the news because there are plenty non-white, non-males who supported him, including herself.  She is not only a college educated female, but half Mexican.

-My best friend’s parents. They are hardworking, good people, who own a local business and are constantly donating food or gift cards from their restaurant to non-profits, schools, and youth sports teams. They even recently held a Calcutta fundraiser for one of their former employee’s grandsons who is sick with leukemia.

-My aunt, who is one of the people I love and respect most in the world. She is smart, reasonable, and is another example of a big-hearted person who constantly goes out of her way for others.

I struggle to understand their decision—to understand how I can like these people when they voted for the exact opposite of everything I believe in. It hurts. It’s hard not to take their choices personally.

But if I play the devil’s advocate for a minute, voting is just as personal a decision as say abortion, the issue I work every day to protect. If these people, these good humans, could find something appealing about Trump, it shouldn’t surprise me that 59 million other Americans could, too. Do I think that all 59 million are the same caliber of decency as my friends and family? No. In a lot of ways, this race, this candidate, granted permission to the racists, sexists, xenophobes, and homophobes to come crawling out of the closets and spew hatred. And I believe that a big chunk of his voters love that renewed hatred and are thriving on it now. But I also have to believe that there are people in this country who are aching for change and for one personal reason or another, truly believed Trump is going to bring that change.

I’ll be the first to admit that I live in a sheltered, unique bubble. I work with nearly all women who share the same belief system. I love a man who has the same political leanings. And I live in a state where the majority of people overwhelming voted for the same candidate that I did. To say my bubble burst on Wednesday morning would be an understatement.

I was devastated. I was in disbelief. I had supported Hillary since the Obama primary. I bought her bumper sticker, tshirts, shared her social media posts, and even forced my way through a crowd to meet and shake her hand at a rally. I endured as a minority in my own state of Vermont through Feel The Bern, staying strong to my convictions and saying, “I’m still with her.” By Election Day, I was confident she was going to win and convinced I’d spend the night celebrating our first female president. I wore my pink Hillary shirt, took selfies, smiled all day, and even bought a giant tub of party mix to figuratively and deliciously mark the occasion. [I know now that was what jinxed it. #thanksobama]

The day after [so yesterday-wow, that seems like a long time ago-] was like mourning a death. Our office felt like a funeral home. We hugged, we cried, we supported each other, we went through the stages of grief. Everyone wore black. It was more of the same when I got home, plus frantically reading and watching everything we could get our hands on to understand how this happened.

I don’t know what else to do. I see people just like me protesting across the country and I just—can’t. I’m tired. I’m defeated. Most of all, I think if the roles were reversed, I’d be calling the protesting side “sore losers.” And because Hillary has been nothing but the epitome of class about this whole outcome, I personally don’t think protesting is the right move.

I’m trying instead to be there for my coworkers and friends. To ask how they are doing or give a hug. I’m trying to do one nice thing a day for someone. I’m trying to take care of myself. Mostly, I’m trying to understand the “other side.” I’m trying to put myself in their shoes. And let me tell you – so far it feels like squeezing my size 10 into a pair of 5’s. Uncomfortable. Before you get all, “Wow, that’s so noble of you, Amy,” let me just make one thing clear: for every one of these good moments, I still have two that involve screaming at the TV or throwing my phone. I still cry. I still worry about nuclear war, about my organization folding, about women’s rights going out the window, about me losing my job, about the KKK, about the rights of my LGBTQAI friends, about the safety of my non-white friends, etc. etc. etc. I’m not over this. I don’t know that I will ever be over this. But I am trying to understand it, and maybe if we all do more of that, we won’t ever be here again.

8 Year Old Amy and the Case of the Cursive P

The most stressed out period of my life was the year I spent in Mrs. Lemieux’s third grade class. Yeah, you read that correctly, third grade. Like clockwork, I came home every day after school and cried. The crying caused full blown migraines, and I’d have no other choice but to lay down in a dark room with a wash cloth draped across my forehead so that I didn’t barf all over the place. My parents couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. My mom spent hours talking to my teacher and sent me a greeting card in the mail that promised, Everything is going to get better. Thinking the migraines were because I couldn’t see the chalkboard, they even took me to an optometrist to have my eyes checked out. The conclusion was, “There is nothing wrong with your daughter’s eyes. We think the headaches are stress related.”  Duh.

I had been duped! Second grade was a walk in the park! We studied dinosaurs, we watercolored, we learned the Star Spangled Banner and we played outside. The end.  I excelled at second grade. I was awesome at second grade. I even remember thinking second grade wasn’t challenging enough. I approached my teacher Ms. Saunders one day and demanded to know, “When are we going to learn cursive!?” Ms. Saunders was caught off guard, and probably wondered to herself, How can learning about the Palaeosaurus not be enough for you?  But instead sweetly laughed and said, “That happens in the third grade.”

“Excelllllent,” I evilly replied and rubbed my two hands together like Mr. Burns on the Simpsons. (Ok, that didn’t actually happen because I never saw the Simpsons until middle school, but for our purposes we are going to pretend I was a badass).

I was very excited between the summer of second and third grade. I had gelled bangs, I could sing our national anthem, and dammit, I was going to learn cursive. Nothing could stop me! photo

On a scale of one to ten, I’d say third grade was about two million times harder than I had expected. There was so much homework! There was so much reading! There was so much less recess time! I had it good the year before and didn’t even know it.

My desire to learn cursive turned out to be the biggest challenge of them all—a classic case of be careful what you wish for. It started off easy enough. Mrs. Lemieux would draw a letter on the board and in our little notebooks with predetermined dotted lines, we would do our best to copy it. “A” was a synch for me because, duh, my name started with that letter and I was obsessed with finding out how to write my name in cursive. “B” also didn’t give me much trouble because it meant I could learn how to write my brother’s name in cursive, too, and of course hold that over his head when necessary. But by the time we got to the middle of the alphabet, I was struggling.

There were so many letters that made no sense to my little brain. Why would anyone give a lowercase “m” three humps when it only has two in print?! And couldn’t giving “n” two humps be confused for “m,” especially for us people who barely can read our own handwriting?! And who the hell came up with the cursive “z”? That is some sort of hieroglyphic shenanigans right there.

The letter I had the hardest time with, hands down, was the lowercase “p.” I always seemed to screw it up! I would tilt it too much, or forget to close the loopdy-doop thing below the line, or forget the squiggly piece that started it. I’d bring my booklet up to Mrs. Lemieux for approval and each time she would say, “You still don’t quite have the ‘p’ correct. Go back and try it again.”

What was this hellish prison I was stuck in?! Take me back to second graaaade! [cue headache].

My classmates at our four-corner desk quad would see me in tears, with my hands on my head, starring at my practice sheet and that goddamn “p.” A few of the girls were really nice and would show me how they drew it, hoping I would catch on. But I honestly don’t remember any eureka moment where I got it right and jumped for joy. I have to assume I did because I moved on to 4th grade – but it’s very possible that I should not have and that you are reading the work of a cursive criminal.

 

I do have to say there were a few redeeming qualities to third grade:

  1. We watched Voyage of the Mimi…a lot. Starring none other than Mr. Ben Afflick himself, VOTM “was a thirteen-episode American educational television program depicting the crew of the Mimi exploring the ocean and taking a census of humpback whales.” We learned everything from navigation, to drinkable water, to sea animals. VOTM even taught us that when someone gets hypothermia, you both need to get naked and get into a sleeping bag together. How our third grade jaws dropped during that one.
    (Note: I did NOT enjoy the Second Voyage of Mimi, because during Episode 1 they revealed one of the characters was an amputee and showed her putting on her fake leg. Terrifying.)
  2. We had pet crawfish. While other kids in neighboring classrooms got to snuggle up to fuzzy, adorable, baby ducks, my classmates and I were given crustaceans with pinching claws. Looking back, it does seem kind of weird that kids in land-locked VT had pet crawfish…but in 1993 at Flynn Elementary School, it was just another day in paradise.

    I picked out a female and gave her the most appropriate name I could think of: Francesca. Francesca only pinched me a couple of times, which was actually something to brag about considering how often the boys in my class had crawfish dangling from their hands as they screamed for help. I remember two things about Francesca: 1-she smelled really bad and 2-you could tell she was a female by flipping her over and studying her legs. 1694549_orig 

    I don’t know what happened to the crawfish in the end. I think we let them go down by the river, or maybe they were shipped to Louisiana where they belonged. I do remember that when our unit on VOTM and crawfish came to an end, Mrs. Lemieux threw us a big party and brought in cooked lobsters for us to try. It was the first time any of us had ever had something so expensive and delicious. She let us each take a piece of the lobster shell home as souvenirs. (Again, why she thought giving 8 year olds smelly fish parts in June was a good idea was beyond me…) I wrapped a lobster abdomen up in a paper towel, showed it to my mom, and begged her to let me keep it. I think it lasted a few hours before the smell of rot was enough to make me chuck it myself.

  3. I fell in love with writing. When we weren’t getting attacked by crawfish or cringing each time our teacher drew another new cursive letter on the blackboard, we wrote stories. We would work on our stories for what seemed like weeks and then we would hold “An Author’s Tea” and invite all of our family members to hear us read them. The majority of my stories were centered around my cat Midnight who had an affinity for chasing and eating bumblebees, and sleeping on my head and drooling into my ear. I also wrote about time travel and secret passages–an obsession I had that last well beyond third grade (thanks Babysitter Club books).

    But third grade was also my first and last bout with plagiarism! I guess the creative juices just weren’t flowing one day when I decided to copy Danielle Bombardier’s story about The Boy Who Didn’t Like Cake. The plot was simple: there was a boy, and he would eat almost anything, except he didn’t like cake, and how could anyone in the entire universe not like cake? Yeah, how could someone not like cake, I thought to myself. What would be even crazier is if he didn’t like ice cream! And so my story entitled The Girl (see what I did there) Who Didn’t like Ice Cream was born.

    When Danielle found out I was essentially stealing her story and changing a few parts, I remember her squeaky little voice protesting in anger and saying, “Heeey! That’s my story. You just changed a few parts.” And I pulled a Vanilla Ice and was like, “No, no. It’s different. See YOUR story is about a BOY who doesn’t like CAKE. MY story is about a GIRL who doesn’t like ICE CREAM. Completely different.” Maybe Mrs. Lemieux, thinking that I couldn’t handle another cursive “p” incident, took pity on me because she let me write my story anyway.

 
Though it was challenging, I think third grade taught me some valuable lessons: 1). Crustaceans make better meals than pets; 2). If at first (or second, or forty-third) you don’t succeed, try, try again; and 3). Cursive is some straight up useless bullshit and you will only use it in third grade.

The Return of Amy

A funny thing happened to me the other day: I had a moment where I felt like myself again.

I was at work on a sunny Friday and noticed my coworker come in with a dozen My Little Cupcakes. I thought to myself that either she was going to have to most awesome breakfast of all time, or I should be expecting an email alerting me of food up for grabs. You know the email—the type that sends polite office workers into fools stampeding toward the kitchen. Sure enough, an email appeared in my inbox with the promise of chocolate, sprinkles, and buttery whipped cream.

But ah-ha! There was a catch to cashing in on these sugary bundles of joy. The cupcakes were from her husband Steve’s birthday, and in order to take a cupcake, she asked we write him an email to say happy birthday. Interesting!

Now, have I ever met Steve?
No.

Did I even know she had a husband named Steve?
Again, no.

But was I going to let any of that get in the way of me and some perfectly adorable cupcakes?
FUCK NO.

I’m not entirely sure why I was amused by this situation. The “me” from a few months ago would have angrily received that email, made some comment to myself about how dumb and small those cupcakes are, and hit “delete” with enough gusto to break the backspace key on my keyboard. Then I probably would have popped on my “please-don’t-talk-to-me” headphones, listened to some more depressing Sarah McLachlan type music, and rushed to the ladies’ room 15 minutes later for a good cry when fill-in-the-blank thing happened.  Yeah…That was pretty much me at work from September to last week. Home life was even uglier.

But for whatever reason, I wasn’t annoyed by this email. In fact, I wanted to play along. If an email to Steve is what she wanted, an email to Steve she would get!

I carefully thought about what sort of message I’d like to craft to good old Steve and came up with the following:

Dear Steve,

You don’t know me, but I am writing to wish you a happy (belated) birthday and to say thanks. Because your parents got it on when they did, and because you married Eve, who then started working here, I’m reaping the benefits of a delicious mini cupcake! So thanks! Hope you had a fabulous day.

Your Fan,
Amy

OK, so it wasn’t exactly Pulitzer Prize material, but for the first time in a long time, it felt like the real Amy was back—the person who was creative, spontaneous, upbeat, and dare I say…a little bit funny!? What an awesome fucking feeling.

This past year or so has been incredibly hard and sad, but I think I am finally past the roughest patches. I’m fortunate to have an incredible group of people who stood by me when the bottom fell out and saw me through the most awful months of my life. Sure I still have my Sarah McLachlan days, but I’m regaining myself with every day that passes, returning to the person I was before. I’m crossing off items on my life’s to-do list, spending my time with people who bring me happiness, and I’m doing the things I love. The fact that I’m even blogging speaks volumes to this.

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Three people this week alone have commented on how nice it is to see me so happy again.

I couldn’t agree more.

What We’re Teaching Little Girls

I recently experienced the following at a grocery store…

In the check-out line behind me was a young girl who couldn’t have been older than seven or eight.  She had long hair, was wearing a floral print dress, and by all accounts seemed like a typical, innocent child. She was buying popsicles with her Dad, scoping out all of the magazines, and this is the conversation I overhead:

Girl: Dad, wow. Look how fat Kim Kardashian is…
Dad: Wow, yeah she is.

Girl: And oh my goddd, is that __? It doesn’t even look like her. You can totally tell she has had plastic surgery. I bet she has had a face lift, maybe more!
Dad: Yeah, I think you’re right. She’s barely recognizable.

Girl: Ugh, look how ugly Mylie Cyrus looks with short hair! Why would anyone want that haircut?
Dad: I don’t know, honey. It does look pretty bad. I prefer the long hair myself.
Girl: Me, too. I would never want to look like her!

!!!

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There are so many problems with this conversation that I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll dive right in with the little girl.

Socialization 

This girl is seven years old and has already been socialized to believe the most important thing in life is beauty. And not just any type of beauty—beauty that’s defined by being blonde, white, and thin (with long hair, apparently). She thinks that anything that strays from this is bad, wrong, ugly, and undesirable.

What is arguably the saddest part of all of this is that the standard of beauty she so badly believes in and presumably wants to emulate doesn’t exist and no one has ever told her differently. Those aren’t real people she sees on the magazine covers. They’re airbrushed, photoshoppedliquefied, perfected versions of someone they used to be. And she probably won’t learn this until it’s too late.

Did you know half of girls between the ages of 3 and 6 worry about being fat?  Don’t even get me started on thinspiration or thigh gap.

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One little girl’s “diyet” plan, found by her mom

Girl Hate

Another huge problem is that this little girl has already learned girl hate. She’s been taught all women are in competition with each other and that she should dislike any female that could potentially be prettier, smarter, or better than her at something… And if she suspects any of those things, she’s learned to pick them apart.

Wow, look how fat Kim Kardashian is.
Ew, why would Miley Cyrus do her hair like that?

You might be thinking, she is only talking about celebrities…does this really matter? YES, it absolutely matters because she I guarantee you she will do this with girls her own age, if she isn’t doing so already.

Reinforcement

Even though I truly believe our society is to blame for what this little girl knows, I still find myself angry with her father. He is her role model and did nothing but reinforce everything she said. Wow, you’re right. I think she did have plastic surgery. Yeah, I’m not a big fan of short hair either.

Was it possible that this dad had a really long day and was just absentmindedly saying anything to appease his kid? Sure. But something tells me he truly believed these things and may have even taught his daughter some of it.

There are so many teachable moments with kids. During this short time in the check-out line he could have easily talked to her about body image, worth, respect, the concept of beauty, or even some age appropriate sex-ed!

IE: Actually, honey, Kim Kardashian has gained some weight because she’s having a baby, and that’s the normal, right thing to happen.

The Dad happened to be an elected official. I don’t know why, but I expected and hoped for more from him.

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Change

I have a niece that’s three years old and is obsessed with weddings, fairy tales, and princesses. Her favorite color is pink and her favorite activity is putting on makeup, a crown, and prancing around the house. When anyone gives her a compliment, nine times out of ten it’s, “Oh, Maddie, you are so beautiful.” She always cocks her head to side and starts laughing, as if to say, “I know.” Her five year old brother Jack experiences the opposite. People seem to have a list a mile long of words to describe this boy: smart, inquisitive, caring, compassionate, strong, and, sure, cute. So why is it that Maddie, even at three years old, is constantly reduced to her looks? Why doesn’t anyone tell her how smart she is? How capable she is? How strong, or compassionate, or good she is? I try so much to relay these messages to her when I see her, to let her know she’s more than just a pretty face, but it disappointingly feels like an uphill battle I’ll never win.

Tonight made me realize more than ever that this isn’t the world I want my future daughter or son to grow up in. I don’t want them believing their worth is measured by the symmetry of their faces, or the number that appears on a scale. I don’t want them to hate other kids and people around them who aren’t blonde, thin and white. I want my future seven year old daughter to not know what the word diet means. To not know what plastic surgery is. To recognize the images she sees before her in grocery check-out lines aren’t real and don’t matter. To spend her summer nights chasing fireflies barefoot in the grass, or telling scary ghost stories around a campfire with her friends. To scrape her knees. To get dirty. To eat ice cream cones. To be a child. And to remain that way for as long as possible.

I just don’t know how to make this happen and that’s what saddens me the most.

4 Christmas Songs With Weird Lyrics

I’ve been baking for the past couple of days and have had my go-to Christmas album on in the background. While coating peanut butter balls with chocolate,  frosting sugar cookies, and listening to the same songs over and over, I’ve noticed a few Christmas classics whose lyrics literally made me drop the spatula and say, “Wait, what?!”

I give you 4 Christmas Songs With Weird Lyrics:

1) It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year—by Andy Williams. It IS a pretty great time of year, isn’t it? With those kids jingle belling, and everyone telling you “Be of good cheer,” how can you really go wrong on this holiday? Welp, somehow Andy Williams has managed to: “There’ll be scary ghost stories /And tales of the glories of / Christmases long, long ago”. I’m sorry, did you just say you’re going to tell ghost stories at Christmas? I mean I get that “stories” rhymes with “glories,” but there are a ton of other options you could’ve put in there to keep the rhyme going: “fun family stories,” “folks from the quarries,” “fresh bread from Laurie’s” – you get my point. And while we’re at it, who the heck offers their guests toasted marshmallows on Christmas: “There’ll be parties for hosting / Marshmallows for toasting”. That’s just plain weird.

"I'm sorry! I'll be a better little girl next year! Just please stop with these scary stories!"

“I’m sorry! I’ll be a better little girl next year! Just please stop with these scary stories!”

2) Baby, It’s Cold Outside—Now known fondly in my house as “The Date Rape” song, this Christmas classic is all about the trials and tribulations of a guy trying to get it on with a woman who has already said “no” fourteen hundred times. And for every reason she gives for needing to leave, he has some bullshit excuse. He lies to her about the lack of transportation (“No cabs to be had out there); guilt trips her (“What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?”); repeatedly tells her how awful the weather is (“Baby, it’s cold outside”; “It’s up to your knees out there”; “Never such a blizzard before”); and blackmails her with death (“If you caught pneumonia and died”). He even hides her clothing (“Say, lend me a coat?”) and slips her Roofies (“Say, what’s in this drink?”). And the woman clearly has no idea what’s happening (“I wish I knew how to break this spell” – you can’t. You’ve been drugged). Yeah, sweet little holiday song, huh?

3) Little Drummer Boy – Suspend your religious affiliations for a minute here, and let’s pretend a couple really was giving birth to the “king.” The whole village comes out to give him gifts, and the poor boy in the song has nothing to offer but his musical skills. That’s really sweet and totally makes sense so far. Until we get to this part “Mary nodded / Pa rum pa pa pum / The ox and lamb kept time / Pa rum pa pa pum.” Can you imagine a wooly lamb and big strong ox tappin’ their hooves in rhythm? Maybe even shaking some sleigh bells from their mouths? Ehhh, that’s a little far-fetched, even for a Christmas song.

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4) Up on the Rooftop –Been singing this one since elementary school and never thought much about the lyrics until now. It starts off innocently enough, telling the story of Santa Claus coming down the chimney with lots of toys (for good little girls and boys). “First comes the stocking / Of little Nell / Oh, dear Santa / Fill it well / Give her a dolly / That laughs and cries / One that will open / And shut her eyes.” Ok, pretty normal. Nothing strange here until…
“Next comes the stocking of little Will / Oh, just see what  / A glorious fill / Here is a hammer / And lots of tacks / Also a ball / And a whip that cracks.” GOOD LORD IN HEAVEN. Yeah a hammer and lots of tacks is exactly what I would give a little boy who probably still wets the bed at night. And a whip to go along with it—perfect. He’ll start his BDSM lifestyle nice and early. WTF?!

Have you noticed any other strange Christmas song lyrics?  Please share them below!

CSA Recipe: Roasted Beets & Sweet Potatoes

I recently signed up for a CSA through the Intervale in Burlington, VT and I’ve become obsessed with it! I get an assortment of vegetables each week, and also get eggs/yogurt/salad dressing OR cheese/bread/pesto along with it. Everything is organic, even the bread and yogurt, and it’s all ridiculously tasty. Since we’re getting so many different vegetables that I normally never cook, I’ve been looking all over the internet and in cookbooks for different recipes. I’ll be sharing some of my favs here!

Recipe: Roasted Beets and Sweet Potatoes
CSA Vegetables: Beets, Sweet Potatoes

I had actually seen a recipe on Food Network for sweet potatoes and beets, but it called for bacon lardons…and, well…I know I am going to lose some of you by saying this…but I’m really just not that into bacon. There, I said it.  I also had to look up “lardons” and wasn’t super into the definition: “Narrow strips of fat used to lard meats.” Ummm, barf.

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice
  • 3 beets, peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the chopped beets and sweet potatoes on baking sheet. Toss with olive oil and drizzle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 until vegetables are golden.

Step 6: Eatttttt

P.S. Aren’t beets a sexy vegetable? Turns out the Romans used them as aphrodisiacs. Beets contain boron, which help in the production of human sex hormones. Ow, la la.

One last word of caution: you might want to wear gloves. Beets stain everrrrything.

The Ones Who Got It Right: Businesses With Great Customer Service

They say when a customer has a bad experience, they’re likely to tell as many as sixteen people about it. But if that same customer has a good experience, they may only tell half of their friends. Why does this happen? I think in part because people like to bitch, myself included. Ranting to your friends is a whole lot healthier than trying to physically harm the business or person involved, even though that’s usually what most people fantasize about.  People also want to make sure their friends don’t experience the same shitty service, and sharing it is one way to protect them.

Since I recently wrote a pretty scathing post about two businesses WHO SUCK AT CUSTOMER SERVICE, I feel I have a due diligence to tell you about two companies that are actually KICKING ASS. ( I’d also love to hear who you’ve had good experiences with, so leave a comment below.)

First up—my new best friends, Maplehurst Florist. Beaten and broken down after weeks of floral shenanigans, I was pretty certain I was never going to find a florist for our wedding (or at least find one that got the wedding date and my name correct).  Out running errands, my mom and I came across a business card for Maplehurst. We realized we were standing around the corner from there shop, so on a whim, we decided to stop in.

I wasn’t expecting much, given my past experiences and the fact that we didn’t have an appointment. But right from the beginning, they were wonderful. We spoke with a man who informed us Wendy, the woman who does wedding arrangements, was on vacation. “Oh, ok,” I said disappointed. I think he must have seen the hopelessness in my eyes because to my surprise he gave us a quick little rundown of their work, their prices, and even showed some arrangements for an upcoming wedding. I took Wendy’s info and left.

A week later, I booked an appointment. Remember how I told you the chick from Price Chopper took down so much useless information about the wedding during our consultation? Well, Wendy asked me about five questions over the phone prior to the appointment. She also was able to fit me in the next day. I was already impressed.

Mom, Liz, and I arrived to the appointment, and introduced ourselves to Wendy (now known as the nicest woman in the world). And whatta know? Maplehurst actually had books FULL of floral arrangements, as well as photo albums of their wedding work.

Once I gave her an idea of the type of flowers I liked, she started pulling out some real flowers and arranging them to give me a sense of what my bouquet would look like. What a concept! Again, I gushed that this was extremely helpful.

But I guess what I was most blown away with was that she was able to give us an estimate for everything in just a few minutes.

“You mean I don’t have to wait a month for this to come in the mail?” I asked, half joking, half confused.

“A month? Oh no! Sometimes we aren’t able to give the estimate that day, but the most we’ve ever made people wait was a few days. Where exactly did you go before us?” I proceeded to tell her the abridged version of my previous post.

So yeah. Needless to say, I practically hugged her at the end of the appointment, thanked her up and down, and put down my deposit. And did I mention that Maplehurst also has an ice cream window? That’s how I knew this was meant to be. Florist…check!

The other business I was pleasantly surprised by lately was Gadue’s Dry Cleaning. I don’t know about you all, but I am in my late twenties and I had never used a dry cleaning service before. I usually avoid “dry clean only” like the plague because to me it equals dollar signs. But I needed my bridesmaid dress from DIZ’s wedding spot-cleaned since someone had spilled (several) beers on me and the dress was now growing some sort of mutant mold. Yeah, probably shouldn’t have waited 9 months to get that taken care of.

Gadue’s did a great job of cleaning it up and taking out all of the spots in a very reasonable amount of time. It was also pretty affordable.

But what impressed me most with these guys was what I received in the mail a week later: A hand-written card, thanking me for being a new customer.

Talk about excellence customer service. I guarantee the next time I need something dry cleaned I will go to them. All because they made me feel valued, they thanked me, and oh yeah, they got my name right.

What businesses do you think do a great job with customer service? Leave a comment below and let’s give these guys some love.

Float Fanatics: The Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade

The Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade is to me what Christmas is to a small child:

  • Exciting
  • Highly anticipated
  • And when it’s over, depression sets in

[I could also add a bullet or two here about drunk people, shouting, and the police—but hey, that’s just my family.]

For the past several years, my organization has had a float in the Mardi Gras Parade here in Burlington, Vermont. Being in the parade is the most fun I’ve ever had. Nothing compares with the thrill of cruising down the main street of your hometown in a ridiculous, tricked-out-trailer, while wearing even more ridiculous, over-the-top costumes, with 25,000 people cheering you on.  I love to watch the crowd smile as they discover each approaching float and I’m always blown away by the sheer amount of joy a fifty cent strand of beads can bring to people’s faces. The invisible (but giant) middle finger we’re all giving Old Man Winter also makes Mardi Gras pretty special.

Amber LeMay sharing her beads at The 15th annual Mardi Gras Parade! A wild day downtown, presented by Magic Hat. Church St., Burlington. Saturday, February 27, 2010. (BEN SARLE/Free Press)

Like all good things, this epic parade time is short-lived. Each float may get about 20-30 seconds in front of each person for a total of 20-30 minutes in the parade. So when you’ve passed the last parade goer, and thrown your last moonpie, it’s common to look at your fellow float riders and say, “Is that it?!”

Erika and I in the Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade last year

But building…ah, that’s a different story, my friends. It literally takes weeks to plan and execute a Mardi Gras float. The ratio of work time to parade time is so disproportionate that most people would call us “crazy” if they ever found out we gave up all Saturdays in the month of February for the 30 minutes of parade glory.  I like to use the word “dedicated.” There’s a huge sense of pride associated with each float because we give it our all, including our blood, sweat, and tears. Emphasis on the word blood.

Our first float build day this year started off with a phone call informing me, “Rob chopped off his thumb and we’re at the ER!”

We hadn’t even pulled out the power tools yet, and people were already losing limbs. In this case, poor Rob had gotten into a fight with a propane heater, and I’m sad to report the fan blade won. But like the trooper he is, I heard him scream in the background “I didn’t chop it off…I just lost some of it. Hang tight and I’ll be back in an hour.”

True to form, he was back in an hour. He looked slightly pale from all the blood loss and had a perpetual thumbs-up from the bandage, but he was ready! The Mardi Gras Parade is a big deal with my crew and nothing was going to stop him from getting our float ready – not even half of his opposable thumb.

Good to go!

We’re just about ready for the big day. The soundtrack is being finalized, the costumes are picked out, and we’re adding some final touches to the float. Basically, we’re ready to rock this city (pssst…that’s a giant hint of our float theme)!

I hope you’ll come out and support the local businesses who are participating, especially HopeWorks, who benefits from the event. And this year, cheer a little louder for every one. You never know what people sacrificed to bring YOU the greatest floats of all time. Cheers!